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Old Boys


Stars: Alex Lawther, Jonah Hauer-King, Pauline Etienne, Joshua McGuire, Nicholas Rowe, Denis Menochet

Director: Toby McDonald

Somewhere between Tom Brown's Schooldays and Roxanne lies this mild and inoffensive school comedy-drama. Noodle (Lawther) bespectacled and weedy, is unmercifully bullied as the only state-school pupil at a prestigious public school.

Mocked as an outcast and always the last to be chosen for teams at games, Noodle, who spends his spare time creating 'flickers' on the corners of notebooks, finds his luck changing with the arrival of Agnes (Etienne), teenage daughter of the new French teacher (Menochet), a blustering, noisy fellow.

Adored from afar by Noodle, Agnes has eyes only for handsome school captain Henry Winchester (Hauer-King) - but Henry, or 'Winch' to his pals, is no scholar and it falls to Noodle, on Winch's behalf, to send romantic letters - and videos - to Agnes, as an unlikely friendship between Winch and the school weed develops.

Noodle even finds himself in the team for the school's trademark bone-crushing contest, which looks like a combination of American Football and the Eton Wall Game.

Directed without any get-up-and-go, the film still passes an hour and half tolerably, with alternative bouts of interest and tedium. But its characters are too broadly drawn, and its performances pretty average (Menochet is particularly awful), with the the exception of Etienne, who's actually a Belgian actress in her late twenties.

However, there's no way Noodle would refuse to 'ground' a winning ball at the end, in a scene that recalls Tom Courtenay's refusal to cross the finish line in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - and is just as unlikely.

David Quinlan

UK 2017. UK Distributor: Verve (Channel 4/BFI). Colour by Panalux.
96 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 19 Feb 2019